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The Most Spectacularly Amazing Records Ever Purchased in 2014

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Let’s hope the Editors use a headline that isn’t purposefully sensationalized or at least that they try to meet me halfway.

I don’t know a fraction of what was released in 2014. Anyone that tells you different is lying. This is literally all the recorded sounds I sought out and paid cash on the barrel-head for with some thoughts on each. Why should you care? You shouldn’t. Go read something else.

Here are the choices I made with my dollars this year. Sure, I wanted to buy other stuff (TV on the Radio, The Swans, St. Vincent, etc.) but I’ll get to them. In order of purchase, last to first.

1. Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes
Supergroup takes post-motorcycle-accident Bob Dylan lyrics and sets them to music in a marathon two week recording session. Produced by T Bone Burnett with Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and Jim James (My Morning Jacket). Excellent results and a pretty interesting experiment overall. Check out the documentary about the recording for a look into the creative process. Happy to end the year on this record.

2. From Berkeley to Bakersfield – Cracker
David Lowery and the Kerosene Hat line-up release a double album. He also put out a Camper Van Beethoven record this year, toured with both bands, and continued to be a scathing voice of reason across social media for artist rights. This is some of Cracker’s best work in years. Songs like I’m Sorry Baby, Almond Grove, and Tonight I Cross the Border sit comfortably next to their classics. And welcome back Davey Faragher!

3. Broke With Expensive Taste – Azealia Banks
Weird in all the right spots. Stream of conscience vox gymnastics on point and in the pocket. Kinda like Missy Elliot in a circus mirror. I’m pretty obsessed with 212 and Heavy Metal and Reflective. I have high hopes for Azealia Banks.

4. The Endless River – Pink Floyd
20 year old jam session snippets brought to life by the remaining Floyd as a testament to their departed keyboardist, singer and songwriter Richard Wright. Sentimental, yes, but so are you sometimes. Lighten up. Mostly instrumental.

5. Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone – Lucinda Williams
A double album on her own label from one of the best singer/songwriters in this wicked world.  That “give me protection from the enemy of love” isn’t a rallying cry this year is a testament to her still too underground status at 61. And wait… is that Davey Faragher again? And Pete Thomas? Elvis Costello must have these guys on a long leash.

The Most Spectacularly Amazing Records Ever Purchased in 20146. Syro  – Aphex Twin
Announced via spray painted stencils, blimps, and the deep web, Syro from Aphex Twin (British electronic musician Richard D James) comes 13 years after the last proper release. Listen to a master at work. Its glitchy ambiance will fill your headphones with the soundtrack to your own personal video game.

7. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
Another step in the right direction from the prolific and recently sober (not counting weed) Adams whose self titled album sounds a bit like his Love Is Hell era work. Trouble is a hooky track reminiscent of Tom Petty in the best way.

8. The Man Upstairs – Robyn Hitchcock
A mix of covers (Roxy Music, Psychedelic Furs, The Doors) and originals produced by Joe Boyd and conjuring up the ghost of Syd Barrett. Beautiful recordings by a man who shows no signs losing his wit, edge, or voice. Comme Toujours is the sweetest thing this side of McCartney.

9. Hypnotic Eye – Tom Petty and & the Heartbreakers
Picks up where the greasy  Mojo left off. Standout tracks like Fault Lines and Red River are lessons in rock-n-roll sing-about. Their first #1 record in the US, for reals.

They_Want_My_Soul10. They Want My Soul – Spoon
Spoon delivers especially shiny and appropriately emotional tunes on their 8th studio album. Britt and crew mostly play to their strengths, with a few dancey tricks up the sleeve. One of my favorites this year, but I’m biased. (full review here)

11. Fuego – Phish
Phish get silly with an expensive producer (Bob Ezrin) on their 12th studio album. Self indulgent music meant to be shared – mostly by Phish fans. I dig it, but you don’t have to dig too deep. If you’re looking for the Ezrin that produced The Wall, you can find him most obviously on the soaring chorus of 555.

12. Freeman – Freeman
Gener comes correct, clean and sober on his first proper post-Ween release. So effortless sounding it took a good many listens to make it one of my favs of the year. (full review here)homepage_large.c41296e0

13. Acoustic Classics – Richard Thompson
Tasteful renditions of classic Thompson spanning his entire career. The acoustic treatment shows off his virtuosity as a song-smith and in playing the shit out of an acoustic guitar.

14. Awake – Tycho
Like 2011’s Dive, Scott Hanson delivers another set of chill tracks that  remind me of nodding off in the sunny backseat of your mother’s 1978 Ford Pinto. Damn, your mother was fine.

15. Just When I Let Go – Melissa Giges
Her second record aided and abetted by the omnipresent Blake Morgan. Melissa’s writing and singing voice are in lockstep on the slinky Just When I Let Go, in the elegant On the Surface, and the bouncy Maze of Regrets. #irespectmusic #fuckerthepig

16. El Camino Real – Camper Van Beethoven
Camper and Cracker released two strong records this year. As usual, no dearth of songs that change trajectory on a dime, still Camper finds solid ground in the sprawling instrumental Goldbase and the pop-sensibility of  It Was Like That When We Got Here.

17. Beauty & Ruin – Bob Mould
Return to form for everyone’s favorite aging post-punk rocker. Had something of a resurgence this year and props from Dave Grohl and Ryan Adams. I also bought the Sugar reissue Copper Blue this year. I think it’s the third time I bought that album in my life.

midnightsun18. Midnight Sun – The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
One of my favorite albums this year and the subsequent evening at Bowery Ballroom was a concert highlight. Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl create a super fun retro-psychedelic batch of songs that are thoughtful and well-executed. Two overachievers who keep the music heavy and the mood light.

19. Upside Down Mountain – Connor Oberst
I had no idea who Connor Oberst was when I met him at a benefit ten years agoKeeping up with him through the years always seems to pay off musically and this is no exception. Made of songs, he is.

20. Turn Blue – The Black Keys
Jack White wouldn’t dig it, that’s for sure. Too bad, if he and Dan Auerbach put their heads together minds would be blown. Turn Blue is another experiment in taking two bluesy boys from Akron and refracting them through producer Danger Mouse. Their first #1 record in the US, too.

21. Indie Cindy – Pixies
Last year’s surprise EPs collected in one album. I admit, I secretly sequenced them on my own, but this way makes sense, too.  Very lush later-day Pixies sounding, picking up where Trompe Le Monde left off.  I love all these songs, from the never-be-on-the-radio Magdalena 318 to the radio-friendly Another Toe in the Ocean. On a good day, Black Francis screaming in Blue Eyed Hexe (at 2:05) takes me to a zen place.

22. Yellow Ranger – Awkwafina
I could easily count how many of my friends know Awkwafina on both hands if I had no hands. Or no friends. Regardless, I dug last year’s irreverent My Vag and NYC Bitche$ for their low-fi absurdity and Awkwafina’s smokey delivery. This collection runs mostly hot with Awkwafina’s fingerprints all over the pencils, microphone, and dials – crafting purposelessly offensive tracks to “bring that yellow to the rap game.” She’s having a good year. Also; she crazy.

23. Morning Phase – Beck
There’s beautify in the way Beck recreates Nigel Godrich’s production of Sea Change but I miss the loose cannon he used to be. Still, I get his return to this sound. Why not? Moody songs like Say Goodbye, Don’t Let it Go and the title track make a mockery of my opinions anyway.

24. Hotel Valentine – Cibo Matto
Probably my favorite album this year. How can a record be so retro, in the moment, and forward thinking all at once? It makes my eyes roll back into my head. (full review here)

25. After the Disco – Broken Bells
Another spacey, sparse and weird pop infusion from Mercer and Mouse. Kinda sounds like 90’s Air in spots. Danger is gonna have to branch out – maybe work on a more high profile project.

26. Wig Out At Jagbags – Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
So, the year began with this album for me and it made me optimistic. Malkmus  and the Jicks are in a real stride here, shining on the poppy “Lariat” and the guitar heavy “Chartjunk.” At once off-handed and tightly composed – there’s lots of chops on display while keeping it all loosey goosey (not unlike his old band Pavement). Was a good way to begin the year.

Recording as Electronic Device, Brooklyn artist and writer Eric Curran releases his debut record "Two Dull Boys" in 2021.

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Comic Fans: Geek out with Cartoonist Kayfabe

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Cartoonist Kayfabe is a YouTube channel hosted by comic-book makers Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg.

Comics have come a long way since they were just for kids – and anyway, those kids have grown up and rightfully embrace it as  an artform. Cartoonish Kayfabe expertly walk you through the finer points of comic creation and appreciation, referencing some high quality images along the way.  If you’re a comic geek, you will dig it – especially if you’re into 90’s era and independent comics.

Recording as Electronic Device, Brooklyn artist and writer Eric Curran releases his debut record "Two Dull Boys" in 2021.

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Chadwick Boseman Forever!!

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It is clear that Chadwick Boseman chose iconic roles like Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Black Panther with deliberate intent and for a specific purpose. In an age where positive roles for Black actors is often sparse, Chadwick managed to land and portray historical figures that made most respect his talents if not revel in his ability to transition effortlessly for one character to another. Even I had to give his African accent a solid B+ (It’s the highest grade the Nigerian Standards Bureau can give for an African accent to a non African FYI.)

Holding out and preparing for these dynamic roles came with both great frustration and incredible resolve I’m certain. Not to mention the taxing ordeal of battling Colon Cancer as the grueling scheduling of filming and increasing responsibility for positive representation loomed. Even under extreme duress, Chadwick’s commitment to others appeared to outweigh his own tribulations, unbeknownst to us all.

Black Panther may have been just a movie to some and that may be because some can easily rattle off 10 movies with a king of non Af-Am origin. It represented a lot more to others. Albeit imagined, imagery on cinema often accomplishes more to augment the social narrative and society itself than actual reality. If negative stereotypes influence perception then positive ones absolutely have the same converse effect.

Even in jest, the cultural misappropriation of raisins in potato salad on SNL skits directly spoke to the tampering of black culture to which T’challa championed, represented and aptly responded “Oh hell Nah Karen!”

If you don’t understand the relevance of representation, it’s probably because you are thoroughly represented. After all, no one is ever grateful for every breath they take until they are gasping for air.

R.I.P Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for breathing life into the possibility of Black excellence.

Alfred Obiesie is a writer with over 12 years of online content contribution (Onetrackmine.com, Cartermag.com, Essence.com) and author (You Made It a Hot Line; The most influential lines in hip hop.) The book chronicles hip hop lines from the genre’s most notable artists spanning almost 40 years. It is illustrated by Grammy award winning Illustrator Shah Wonders and has garnered praise from multiple media outlets (Sirius XM, Vibe, Brooklyn Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, etc...)

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10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1

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We’re all familiar with movies hiding easter eggs throughout their films sending winks and nods to pop-culture references. Sometimes it will be a tip-of-the-cap to an author, actor, or creator. Sometimes it is paying homage to an inspiring series, book, or film that’s near and dear to the director’s heart. This week I’ve seen a first. A T.V. series that has several easter eggs depicting segregation and oppression that only eagle-eyed aficionado’s of the black struggle might have caught on to.

Lovecraft Country is littered with important details that would fly over many people’s heads, and as I watched it again, I caught more nods to the true oppression of many African-Americans during the post-World War II era.

As a film buff, nothing makes me happier than watching a review, breakdown, or hidden easter egg video on a TV show I enjoy. Yesterday I did the same with Lovecraft Country, and while many of the melanin-deficient reviewers on youtube touched on the themes of literature, horror, and fantasy, many understandably missed some of the most important historical references.

Here are 10 Easter Eggs of Segregation in Lovecraft Country Episode 1.

 

1. H.P. Lovecraft’s little poem.

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While we all know H.P. Lovecraft as an innovator of modern horror, fiction, and fantasy in literature, many people (including myself) didn’t know about a poem he wrote that spoke horribly about African Americans. Lovecraft Country alludes to the poem, but never recites it. Once they mentioned the title, I went straight to my Google Search. Below is the poem called: On the Creation of N*****s (1912)

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceived a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a N****r.

I’m sure Jackie Robinson beating the S**T out of Cthulhu at the beginning of the episode was a collective middle finger from the black community to Mr. Lovecraft.

2. Seating for Black People

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Scene from episode 1

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Actual photo of a segregated bus

While this may not come as a surprise to many of you, a lot of people are ignorant to the fact that, yes, black people were made to sit in the back of the bus. Many know the story of Rosa Parks’ defining moment, but for decades this was the way of life for black people. Where insult to injury is predicated in the show is when the bus breaks down and the bus driver gets a local pick-up truck driver to ride the stranded passengers into the city. Immediately in the next scene, the only two black passengers were seen walking down the road into Chicago.

3. Propaganda for the Negro Soldier

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In Lovecraft Country, the above poster is not shown in this episode, but instead, it’s a black soldier telling other young black men that if they enlist, they can see the world. While Atticus walks by the soldier, there’s a glance of recognition as if Atticus was once one of those impressionable young men, and he knows their being lied to. Black men had to be enticed to enlist by different methods than whites because it was hard to show patriotism to a country that still to that day had kept them oppressed. So, they would show a poster of Joe Louis joining the fight…why don’t you? Get to see the world! Little did they know seeing the world would involve PTSD, death, and despair.

4. The Negro Motorist Greenbook

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Scene from episode 1 depiction of the Green-Book

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Actual Green-Book

The synopsis according to IMDB.com is: “Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Black as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father.” While this is true, it’s not the whole story. Why are they embarking on this trip? It’s to help update what many people may know as, The Negro Motorist Greenbook. Yup, just like the movie, The Greenbook. If you don’t know, this book was originated by Victor Hugo Green as a travel bible for African Americans. It provided details of safe roads to travel, places for food, repairs, and lodging where they wouldn’t be turned away or even worse, assaulted.

5. James Baldwin’s monologue on racial divide

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During one of the scenes in Lovecraft Country, we see a montage of our protagonist’s road trip. In the montage we see different moments where they face discrimination, others facing discrimination, and the hardships of ignorant people with all the privilege in the world monopolizing on their entitlements. Usually, during movie montages, a composer would play a score to envoke emotions during the collection of scenes. Lovecraft Country went in a different direction. Instead, they played the monologue of James Baldwin’s renowned speech at Cambridge University where he debated with William Buckley on the subject of the United States racial divide. James Baldwin was a brilliant playwright, novelist, speaker, and activist that eloquently described the plight of the black man as it still stands today. Merged with the scenes during the montage, it speaks volumes about the state of America.

6. Ice Cream stand Scene

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Scene from episode 1

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Gordon Sparks photograph

In one of the scenes in the montage, we see a black man and his children waiting at an ice cream stand for service. Right over them is a sign that says “colored” and on the other side of the stand is a group of white people with ice cream being tended to by the servers. This scene looked extremely familiar to me. When I did some research, I realized this scene was based on a famous photograph by Gordon Parks, photographer and journalist who well-documented scenes of the segregation and civil rights era. Years ago I saw his work in its full brilliant quality at the High Museum in Atlanta. The color and detail brought a realism that a black-and-white photo could never do. It made this a real thing.

7. Mother and daughter under the neon sign

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Scene from episode 1

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Actual photo

This scene once again pays homage to another photograph by Gordon Parks. A mother and her daughter dressed elegantly as if they were going to church, standing under a large neon sign that says ‘Colored Entrance’.

8. The billboard across from the gas station

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Scene from episode 1

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Advertisement the billboard is based on

While Atticus and company are at a gas station filling up their car, they are approached by a gas station attendant pretending to be a gorilla to mock them. Leticia holds Atticus back from approaching the man as the attendant intensifies his ignorant behavior and she forces Atticus into the car. As they pull off, you can see a Billboard for Aunt Jemima in the background. Aunt Jemima has always been a misrepresentation of black culture through the lens of the white man and advertised to his fellow man as the overall perception of black people. The image of  Aunt Jemima is a source reflection of the learned behavior of the gas station attendant.

9. Sundown towns

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Scene from episode 1

Two years ago was the first time I’ve ever heard of a Sundown Town. No, not through a history book, but as a warning about staying too late in a little town in Texas that exists today! If I didn’t hear about this first hand, I would’ve thought it was a theme of the past, but no. There are currently county’s that do not condemn the abuse of black people once the sun goes down! While the billboard here might be a relic from the past, Sundown Towns are definitely alive and well across America!

10. White walls

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Scene from episode 1

Not only is this one telling, but it also holds all kinds of subliminal messages. While the group finds a Green book safe haven for dining called Lydia’s, they are surprised to find the restaurant is now called, Simmonsville Dinette. Still, they walk in and are greeted by unwelcoming faces. While the server goes to the back for what seems like their coffee orders, Atticus realizes that the walls are painted white. He asks his uncle to remind him why the white house was white. His uncle tells him about the war of 1812 when British soldiers torched it and when slaves were tasked to rebuild it, they had to paint it white to cover up the burn marks. This tells us two things. Lydia’s restaurant was burnt down and rebuilt by trespassers (obviously for being a safe haven for blacks in this all-white town) and the blackness of this restaurant was erased and covered up by the ‘white’ paint. My goodness, I could go on and on about this one!

I was expecting this series to be littered with easter eggs, but knowing they have incorporated easter eggs specifically about the black movement and struggles has me fired up to see what else is in store for these characters. Did you see any easter eggs that I missed? Comment and let me know.

 

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